(WXYZ) - On any given day, they come by the dozens to look at someone else’s stuff and decide if they want to make it their own. Just one quick look and the bidding begins!
Welcome to the world of Storage unit auctions! Some people come to treasure hunt, others to supplement their income.
“I tell everyone, bid on what you see, your profit is what you don’t see,” says auctioneer Wayne Blair.
Blair has been auctioning off storage units for years after people, for whatever reason, stop paying the storage costs. And at each auction, you’ll find people like Larry, retired and treasure hunting. Or David, a real estate broker who wouldn’t mind making a few extra bucks on stuff he can resell. Or Adrian, who needs the extra money with her husband unemployed.
We followed them all a couple weeks ago as some 10 units were up for auction at Secured Self Storage in Livonia and Westland. We’ll tell you how they fared in a minute…
But first, while storage unit auctions have been going on for years, they’ve become a craze because of shows like A&E’s Storage Wars.
Each week two auction hunters bid on units and find things they can turn into cash.
“The price of the units have gone up because of the shows,” Blair says.
Mike Adle has been checking out these auctions and bidding on some for about nine months. “If you ever watch the television show, they always show pulling out shoeboxes with hundred dollar bills in it, that’s not the case, you may find a jar of change, but pennies,” Adle says.
Of course there are exceptions. Mike found an Elvis collection recently that he hopes will fetch some good coin. And our treasure hunter Larry once found silver coins worth about $500 to $600. He only paid $80 for the unit! Pretty good! But how would he do on this day?
He bought a unit full of old boxes for $450. Remember, you can only look in the unit, you can’t go in them. And his treasure hunt was off to a slow start. After finding a number of old, empty, dusty boxes, he brought out boxes full of old Christmas decorations.
“It looks like we hit the Christmas bargain bin at the dollar store,” he said. Larry admits this is a gamble.
“It’s probably a better risk than buying a lottery ticket, that’s the way I look at it,” he says. “The payoff may not be as good, but the odds are better.” An expensive lottery ticket I noted and he agreed.
Buy it, Clean it
Once you buy the unit, it’s up to you to get it cleaned out fast, to sort the trash from the treasure. If you can’t get it done quickly, you have to pay for more storage time. Everyone admits that part is a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you can make some cash.
Across town at another Secure Storage facility, David, our real estate agent bid 240 dollars on a unit that intrigued him.
“There was a compressor in the back that’ll be worth a few dollars, a bike in the back, but the unknown is always in the boxes that you can’t see,” said Fletcher.
In a dresser drawer he found a few industrial paint guns, in another, some clothes including a wool coat, and in another a stereo equalizer. And when he got to actually see that bike up close…
“I would imagine that would be worth a hundred dollars, I would think.”
The Research & Reselling
The research and reselling is the next step. Some people sell their stuff on eBay or Craig’s list, or at their own garage sale. Others sell it at second hand shops. It can be a lot of work!
Adrian Montgomery knows that. She and her husband have been doing this for a couple years for extra money. Her husband is unemployed and his benefits have run out. But today, they looked, and even bid on one unit, but the price got too high!
“Good luck to the person who bought it, that’s way too much,” Adrian says. A year ago, something like that would have gone for a hundred or a hundred and fifty. Supply and demand, it’s the phenomenon of the TV shows. It’s not worth it.
In the end, Larry, the treasure hunter, didn’t find any treasures in the unit filled with old boxes. He says he thinks he should make his $450 back though selling things at a garage sale, including some new window treatments that were in the unit. But he had to make some trips to the dump to get rid of a lot of stuff!
David, the real estate agent, made about $150 dollars on the unit he bought for $240. He was right, the bike fetched him $100. And just this past Friday, he bought another unit for $180. After buying it, he found a couple buckets full of about 50 Dale Earnhardt die-cast cars. Some quick research found he should be able to get at least 50 bucks for each of them. That’s the kind of find that brings people back. You never know what you’re going to get!
For more on some of the upcoming storage unit auctions in our area, click here.
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